Only two US senators involved in re-election races that could hand Republicans control of the chamber voted against a massive spending bill that also approves a plan to arm Syrian rebels.
Senators headed home to campaign for the Nov. 4 midterm elections Thursday evening after easily approving a bill to fund the Pentagon and federal agencies through Dec. 11. The stopgap spending measure, approved Wednesday by the House, also contained a House Armed Services Committee-passed amendment endorsing a White House plan to train and equip Syrian opposition forces.
Real Clear Politics, an independent organization that tracks political races, lists eight races as toss ups: Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Iowa, Kansas, New Hampshire and North Carolina. Of those, only Georgia and Iowa feature retiring members, meaning the candidates for those seats were not voting Thursday.
Of the incumbent senators who voted on the spending measure and train-and-equip package, only Alaska Democrat Mark Begich and Kansas Republican Pat Roberts voted “no.”
Roberts’ vote appears a play for a strong Republican turnout on Nov. 4 in conservative Kansas, where Obama is unpopular.
Many pundits say Kansas suddenly is important for which party will control the chamber because the Democratic candidate pulled out, allowing the independent, Greg Orman, a clear shot at Roberts.
“Orman says that if one side has a clear majority, he will caucus with that party to increase his clout (and that of his state). That makes sense,” Kyle Kondik of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics wrote in a Thursday blog post. “But what if Republicans have just a 50-49 edge after Election Day, leaving both Republicans and Democrats short of their magic number for Senate control (51 for the Republicans and 50 for the Democrats because of Biden’s tiebreaker)?
“Orman would hold control of the Senate in his hand, and he might be able to extract big concessions out of the party caucus he chooses to join,” Kondik wrote. “For instance, he has said that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and … McConnell … are too partisan. Could he make the election of a new caucus leader a condition of his giving one side or the other control?”